Gumbo Dip

Makes 32 2-tablespoon servings. Recipe is by Holly Clegg. "This recipe, which has all the components of gumbo in a creamy, cheesy dip, was voted most popular at a recent party." Serve with toasted baguette slices.

1 large green bell pepper, cored and chopped

1 cup sliced okra (frozen is fine)

2 ribs celery, diced

1 bunch green onions, chopped

1 tablespoon minced garlic

Cajun seasoning to taste

1 pound peeled cooked shrimp, coarsely chopped

1 (8-ounce) package reduced-fat cream cheese

½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

1. In large nonstick pan coated with nonstick cooking spray, cook green pepper, okra and celery about 7 minutes or until almost tender. Add green onions, garlic and Cajun seasoning; cook a few minutes.

2. Add shrimp, cream cheese and Parmesan. Stir over low heat until cream cheese is melted. Cook until bubbly and creamy.

Nutritional information per serving: Calories 39, calories from fat 46 percent, fat 2g, saturated fat 1g, cholesterol 32mg, sodium 74 mg, carbohydrate 2g, sugars 1g, dietary fiber 0g, protein 5g. Diabetic Exchanges: ½ other carbohydrate, 1 lean meat


Mini Muffulettas

Makes 32-40 servings. Recipe is by Holly Clegg. "All it takes is four easy ingredients and 15 minutes to create my popular version of this Louisiana favorite Italian-style sandwich. Make ahead of time and refrigerate or freeze until ready to bake."

2 (12-ounce) packages party-size rolls (16-20 to package)

½ pound thinly sliced lean ham

1½ cups shredded Italian five-cheese blend

1 (16-ounce) jar chopped Italian olive salad, drained

1. Preheat oven 375 F.

2. Split rolls in half, lay on baking sheet. Divide ham, cheese and olive salad onto each roll.

3. Replace bread tops. Bake 10-15 minutes or until cheese is melted.

Nutritional information per serving: Calories 107, calories from fat 48 percent, fat 6g, saturated fat 1g, cholesterol 9mg, sodium 260mg, carbohydrate 10g, dietary fiber 1g, sugars 1g, protein 4g. Diabetic Exchanges: ½ starch, 1 fat

Terrific Tip: Any combination of cheese may be used such as mozzarella, provolone or Parmesan. Freeze muffulettas before baking.


King Cake with Cream-Cheese Cinnamon Filling

Makes 16 servings. Recipe is by Holly Clegg. "Make this quick king cake recipe in your own home without worrying about a complicated yeast dough. Kids love helping to make this recipe."

2 (8-ounce) cans reduced-fat crescent rolls

4 ounces reduced-fat cream cheese

2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 tablespoons butter

⅓ cup light brown sugar

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

Mardi Gras Icing (recipe below)

1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Separate crescent rolls at perforations into 16 slices. On 10-inch round pizza pan coated with nonstick cooking spray, place slices around pan with points in center. About half way down from the points, press seams together.

2. In mixing bowl, beat cream cheese, confectioners’ sugar and vanilla until creamy. Spread cream cheese mixture on dough in center where seams of dough have been pressed together.

3. In another small bowl, combine butter, brown sugar and cinnamon with fork until crumbly. Sprinkle over cream cheese. Fold dough points over cream cheese area and then fold bottom of triangle over points forming a circular roll like a king cake.

4. Bake 20–25 minutes or until golden brown. Cool slightly, drizzle with colored Mardi Gras Icing (recipe below).

Mardi Gras Icing

This is a simple icing to highlight the different colors.

1 cup confectioners’ sugar

1 to 2 tablespoons skim milk

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Yellow, green, red and blue food coloring

1. In small bowl, mix together confectioners’ sugar, milk and vanilla. Divide mixture into three bowls.

2. In first bowl, add a few drops yellow food coloring. In second bowl, add a few drops green food coloring. In third bowl, add equal amount of red and blue food coloring (will create purple).

3. Drizzle each color over baked cake.

Nutritional information per serving: Calories 184, calories from fat 36 percent, fat 7g, saturated fat 3g, cholesterol 9mg, sodium 275mg, carbohydrate 26g, dietary fiber 0g, sugars 16g, protein 3g. Diabetic Exchanges: 1½ carbohydrate, 1½ fat


Mardi Gras Salad

Makes 8-10 servings. Recipe is by Holly Clegg. "Get in the spirit with this festive salad inspired by the colors of Mardi Gras."

2 teaspoon finely chopped onion

½ cup cider vinegar

¼ cup sugar

1 teaspoon ground dry mustard

¼ cup olive oil

1 head red tip lettuce, washed, drained and torn into pieces

1 (10-ounce) package baby spinach, washed and drained

½ cup chopped red onion

2 (11-ounce) cans mandarin oranges, drained

⅓ cup shredded carrots

4 slices center cut bacon, crisply fried and crumbled

1. In small bowl, whisk together finely chopped onion, vinegar, sugar, mustard and olive oil. Refrigerate until ready to toss salad.

2. In large salad bowl, combine lettuce, spinach, red onion, mandarin oranges, carrots and bacon. Toss dressing with salad when ready to serve.

Nutritional information per serving: Calories 112, calories from fat 50 percent, protein 2g, carbohydrate 13g, fat 7g, saturated fat 1g, dietary fiber 2g, cholesterol 2mg, sodium 78mg. Diabetic Exchanges: 1 fruit, 1½ fat

Terrific Tip: Cook bacon in the microwave to get it crispy without the fat. Drain on paper towels after cooking. Center-cut bacon is a better choice to use or use turkey bacon.


Mardi Gras Punch

Makes about 6 quarts. Recipe is by Holly Clegg. "Get in the spirit with this purplish punch, full of wonderful juices. To serve a smaller group, you can easily halve the ingredients."

3 cups grape juice

1 (46-ounce) can pineapple juice

4 cups orange juice

1 (2-liter) bottle ginger ale

Limes, sliced

1. In large bowl or container, mix together grape juice, pineapple juice and orange juice. Pour in ginger ale before serving.

Nutritional information per serving: Calories 75, calories from fat 0 percent, protein 0g, carbohydrate 19g, fat 0g, saturated fat 0g, dietary fiber 0g, cholesterol 0mg, sodium 6mg) 6. Diabetic Exchanges: 1 fruit